Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Fun Venture

I am so lucky. With my time being my time right now I've had the chance to do some things that if I had a regular 9 to 5 I probably wouldn't do. The guys Haole by Design and Proud Monkey over at the Skurvy Monkeys podcast (please note it is PLURAL, Monkey eeez, not singular, remember the eeez attached to the word Monkey so Monkey eeez) have had me on their podcast including doing shows dealing with the Razzies and the Oscars. They've seen my movie review posts and have been after me for a while to do a segment on their show under my monkey moniker, The Movie Monkey. So I've done a couple now where I've read the review that I wrote and then used the special secret sauce to make it a monkey version. I turn over what I've done to Proud Monkey and he puts together the final show and releases it on their podcast feed.

The first one was a review for Repo Men and the newest one was just released for How to Train Your Dragon. The idea is to have one for release each Wednesday.

Their show is a unique show covering different topics. You never know what you might get with Design or Proud Monkey. Movie talk, visiting the Twilight town of Forks, Washington, or even music to drink by shows are topics that have appeared in the past. Just as a heads up, while the Movie Monkey reviews won't carry an explicit rating, the regular shows do. Some of the material is really funny. Then there are the shows that I appear on. What can I say... Anyway, if you would like to subscribe to their show so that it will automatically come to you then click here for a one click subscription on iTunes. On an upcoming show for guessing the most winners for the Oscars, we will be releasing a Music To Drink By show with my selection of music. Design won for the Razzies show and will have his Music To Drink By show coming up shortly. We recorded it and Proud Monkey has to edit it all together.

In the mean time, if you don't like to read at least you can listen to the Movie Monkey reviews!


What's up with movie tickets? The price, that's what!

Last week while doing research for How to Train Your Dragon I went onto Fandango to check out the times for the show, plus I had head some prebuzz about just how good the 3D was for the film. The film was showing in regular 2D, Real 3D and IMAX. Well, IMAX Lite as my local Regal Cinemas don't have the full size IMAX. Suprisingly the only place on Oahu to see IMAX is at the Polynesian Cultural Center and they show mostly enviromovies. My mouth dropped when I saw the prices.

For the privilege of seeing a film in 3D, my local theater was doing an up charge of $2.50 per movie. The price would fluctuate between an evening time and the matinee time in the late afternoon and earlier. For IMAX Lite, it was $15 regardless of the time of day. Regular movies were $8.25 for the matinee prices. I really couldn't tell you what the regular price of the movie was as I hadn't paid full price in a long long time. Over at Consolidated Theaters big Ward Center complex, I almost never go there. One of the reasons is that on the weekend they bump up the prices on all showings plus they don't have a rewards program.

SO, I thought I'd splurge and see the 3D version of Dragon. When I looked at the price on Fandango, my jaw dropped open. The ticket price had gone up to $12.25 from $10.75. A 14% increase in price, but when you look at where the increase was, it was the 3D up charge, now an extra $3.75 for seeing a 3D film. The regular matinee price is now $8.50 up $0.25 or a modest 3%. Seeing a 3D movie as compared to a regular movie is now 44% more expensive. The real shock is when you look at the up charge by itself. $1.75 is a HUGE increase when you consider that the old base was $2.50. In other words, they, meaning the movie companies, think that a 70% increase is OK. On top of that, they ask you to recycle the glasses and if you bring your own, you don't receive a discount for being environmentally aware. Bummer.

Now movies are fighting for IMAX lite and 3D theaters because they think people are willing to shell out extra money for the experience. I personally don't think in most cases that the 3D in the movie is really adding much. Most of the movies that are going 3D now are not shot in 3D with two cameras to create the stereoscopic images needed in order to produce the effects. Most of them are now shot with regular cameras and then post processed for the 3D effects. Personally, I would love to seem them invest in digital projectors. In the last two movies that I saw there were issues with the projection system. Many times I see movies on opening day at the first show of the day. This should be the pristine print. I can't tell you how many times I've had to get a hold of the manager to let them know about scratches in the film or there are color problems especially around the end of the reels.

In past depressions/recessions people flocked to the movies as a release. Same is happening now. After all, taking a family of 4 to the movies on a per person basis is cheaper going to let's say, a Disney park. But, when you add in the extras it still gets expensive and people would probably go to the movies more often than a Disney park. I didn't check the prices at the concession stand. The prices for snacks has been high for some time. I've found that if I don't eat before I go to the theaters that I have a tendency to purchase the food. Luckily where I go there is a five minute walk to the Costco. For $1.57 I get a really big hot dog AND a drink for less than anything that the theater has to offer. The only thing the same price is the flavored salts for flavoring the popcorn. Getting that beef or polish dog really hits the spot and keeps me from buying the expensive stuff! So the theater is not getting my concession money due to the cost of their food and most of the ticket price does not go to the theater.

Even though the prices are going up I don't want to give the theater any more money than I have to. Luckily for me, at Regal they have a loyalty program and with the price of the ticket now $8.50 they round up to give me 9 points instead of just 8. That allows me to get the freebie rewards sooner! When I get my free small soda, I pay $1.00 extra to move up to the large and for $1.50 the popcorn moves from small to large when I receive that as a freebie. Unfortunately, with the free movie ticket, they won't apply the cost of the free ticket against the cost of a 3D or IMAX Lite movie so if I ever want to see those movies, I don't have any discounts available.

Why did the price of the tickets go up? According to CNN and Wall Street Journal, after the success of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland the movie companies and theaters think that you're willing to pay out the extra money. But a 70% increase for 3D....that's a bit excessive in my book.

My suggestion to combat the rising prices is to let your local theater manager know. Also let them know that the rise of the ticket price has affected your ability to purchase any of the food from the concession. I don't know if this would work at your theater but at mine, inspection for items like soda and snacks are not conducted. Having said items in plain sight they will say something, but if in your cargo pants pockets or back packs or handbags make it in just fine.

I'm just sayin'.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon

To download to the audio version, right click here and choose "save as..." or "save link as..."

To listen, press the play button on the player below

The guys who brought us a fuzzy blue genetic experiment designed to bring havoc bring us a sleek black fast, dangerous and endearing dragon in DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon.

Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders were brought in about a year ago to get this story back on track. They bring us a story about understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, finding our place and challenging the accepted norm through a viking village and its residents that gets attacked by different dragon species. Because Dean and Chris were the creators of Disney's Lilo and Stitch, you'll see a number of resemblances between Stitch and the Night Fury dragon in both form and action.

Tickets for this show were available in 2D, Real 3D and IMAX at my local theater. I thought about the 3D for this film as there was some pre-buzz about how the 3D really added to this film which I hadn't heard anyone say for Alice in Wonderland and to a degree Avatar. Upon looking up information on Fandango there had been a change in 3D pricing that made me very unhappy and will write about later in another blog posting. The price for the 2D film had gone up too, only $0.25, so not too bad, with the bright side being now the loyalty points that I get for the film will be rounded up from 8 to 9 rewarding me with soda, popcorn and free movies faster!

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is the son of the viking village leader, Stoick (Gerard Butler). While most of the male vikings look like offensive line football players, Hiccup is not that. Instead of getting any brawn, he's got the brains. To keep him safe Stoick has Hiccup work for Gobber (Craig Ferguson) as an apprentice in the metal shop. The other teens of the village Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout, and twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut (America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, TJ Miller, and Kristen Wiig respectively) are allowed to help battle the dragons with water as we know they can breathe fire and water puts out fire. Being this was back in the day they didn't have sodium bicarbonate foams to use. Being viking, they all aspire to be dragon slayers but are too young to tackle the killing part.

What adds to the depth and fun of the story is the details presented as to the different packages that dragons come in. Each has their own physical characteristics and methods for destruction. It is sort of like in a role playing game where some have strength, some speed, others very powerful fire breath and their weaknesses like only having so many shots of fire before they have to reload. I loved the different back stories of the distinctive types of dragons. If they don't have it out already with the release of the film, I'm sure that there is a card game like Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh based on the array dragons presented in the film.

While wanting to fit into the role of a dragon slaying viking, Hiccup realizes he needs to do things differently. One of his inventions actually works and he lands a dragon but he doesn't have the heart to kill it to prove himself. By observation he learns about dragons and the way they act and behave which is nothing like the young vikings are now being taught in their dragon slaying classes by Gobber or by what's in the books. After becoming friendly Hiccup names him Toothless and helps him with a prosthetic tail wing.

Hiccups ends up enlightening the villagers on many levels. He has to work through the preconceived notions of what a viking is supposed to be with his Dad and Goober. On a different level he and Astrid work out what is bravery. When two forces oppose each other can they put down their differences to work for a common good? The story line emotionally works well. Toothless didn't "speak" except for some occasional growls but the animation of the face, especially the eyes, let you know what was happening within his mind and emotions. In the theater there were a number of laughs, a couple of gasps, some uh ohs and at one point someone yelled NOOOO!

Not seeing the movie in 3D affects my ability to say if they maximized the animation to it's fullest affect. The set designs with the landscapes and building designs were very good. The carvings and totems in the buildings were highly detailed as were the skin textures of the different dragons. There were even a couple of shots from the perspective looking up through the surface of water as compared to looking down into the water that were unique. The hair modeling, especially for the facial portion of the vikings was impressive. Stoik has a big red beard with knots and Goober had his blond mustache tied by material bands which were detailed where you could see individual hair strands and how they were twist or run through a bunch of gathered hair. Again, impressive. Hate to be the person who had to sit around and wait for the rendering to finish on those frames! They probably grew a beard themselves just waiting for the work to complete.

There were a few areas where I did have a problem. On a couple of occasions the movement of the characters and the lip sync weren't quite right. Within the plot there did seem to be some holes. Ancient vikings having no fear or apprehension of flying was one. The biggest being how Toothless ended up having lost part of his tail wings. It was glossed over probably because it would have lead to a much more complicated plot conflict they would have had to work out but didn't want to get bogged down in detail.

One other thing I did notice about this film was three of the main character voices have other movies currently in theaters this weekend. America Ferrera has Our family Wedding, Gerard Butler has The Bounty Hunter and Jay Baruchel is the main character in She's Out of My League. The beauty of doing voice acting!

The film runs 98 minutes and is rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language. Despite some flaws, there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Movie Review: Repo Men

Ahhhh haaaa, watching The Big Bang Theory while I could get in on free TV has finally paid off! The start of this weeks movie, Repo Men begins with the main character Remy, no, not the rat from Pixar's Ratatouille, but a man sitting down at an old fashioned typewriter writing about a concept called Shrodinger's Cat. While he didn't mention the concept by name, I knew what it was even though he explained it slightly differently. In TBBT Leonard says to Penny, you have to open the box to determine if the cat is dead or alive. Remy (Jude Law) says that while the box is closed the cat is both dead and alive. Two sides of the same situation. But because of TBBT I completely understood it, way to go Leonard!

Poor Remy. It's the future in a city like from Blade Runner. Tall buildings, lots of advertisements. Remy and his partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) work for a company called The Union. This company provides people with mechanical body replacement parts. Livers, lungs, knees, eyes, you name it The Union can provide it. The cost? LOTS and LOTS of money. A liver costs $672 thousand dollars or something like that. But the interest rates were reasonable, 18% the first month and then 24% thereafter. OH YEAH! That would mean a liver is a little more than the average cost of a home in Hawaii. Just like when you can't make your payments on a house or car a repo man is sent out to collect, The Union would send out repo men to collect the unpaid body part.

The repo process is bloody. The customer is stunned, the repo men take out their tool kit cutting into the body, removing the part, bagging and tagging it to be returned to inventory. I'm hoping they really clean and sterilized it well before returning it to stock. Prior to taking the part they do ask the customer if they want help after the procedure. Being unconscious they don't respond with the restocking fee being the customer's death. Remy and Jake are the top repo men for The Union and long time friends. Doesn't matter the location, time or circumstances, if payment is past due, you're fair game for collection. They are ruthless and uncaring. It's just a job.

Remy's wife is pressuring him to get out of the repo business. In talking to his boss Frank (Liev Schrieber) Remy can't bring himself to ask for a sales job. Remy has seen how the sales people use used car salesmen techniques in order to get patients to sign on the dotted line. He can't bring himself to move for the sake of his wife and son but after having his hand forced he decides to make the move much to the dismay of his long time friend Jake.

Remy heads to his last repo job and in a workplace accident ends up in the hospital needing a new heart himself. Remy realizes that he's in deep kim chee when he wakes up with large tubes coming out of his chest connected to a box on a shelf. Consequences of his actions cost him his relationship with his wife and son plus he now has property of The Union pumping blood through his body. Apparently he didn't get a discount on the mechanical heart for both an employee discount AND a workman's comp claim. Come on, loyal top notch employee and injured on the job, they should have cut the guy some slack. But Nooooo.

Relegated to a desk job he realizes that he's not cut out of the cloth of a sales person. He tries going back to repo but discovers that he no longer has the heart for it, pun intended, and without creating income he falls into the same boat as those that he dealt with. He's fallen behind in payments on his artificial heart and it must now be repossessed. And who do you think has to get it back? That's right, Jake, the long time friend. The only way to try to save himself is to get the repo claim removed from the records of The Union. He joins up with other people running from the repo men to try to get out from under.

Now it's very coincidental that this movie dealing with a bankrupt nation, high medical costs and for profit medical companies comes out on this weekend. The US Congress is running up bills for the United States pushing the country further into debt. The House of Representatives is about to vote on a bill that the President considers so important that he canceled flying overseas to meet with foreign leaders and dignitaries. Now the proposed laws won't go into effect for several years so even if the bill passes the House waiting a week to ten days isn't going to have a huge influence on the health care industry. The release date of the movie has been set for months and the votes looks to be happening this weekend. What are the odds.

So back to Schrodinger's cat. Unless you look inside you don't know if Remy is dead or alive but by not looking inside he's both dead and alive at the same time. As you watch the movie you wonder the same. Big business, ethics, friendship, relationships, and luck factor in to Remy's life. Will he be able to regain the relationship with him wife and son? Will The Union get back their equipment? Will Jake, his best friend end up killing him? You won't know until you look inside and you may be surprised as to what you find.

The movie is rated R due to the some sexuality/nudity, grizzly images, bloody violence and language. You'll get all of this in the running time of 111 minutes. If you hang to the end, the very end of the movie there is a little Easter egg. While cool, if you don't stay it won't be a huge loss.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Movie Review: Our Family Wedding

This weeks rom-com is Our Family Wedding starring America Ferrera and Lance Gross from Ugly Betty and House of Payne. After finishing the movie I went up to the refreshment counter to get a refill of my large soda before heading out to the bus stop. I was asked by the person behind the counter what movie I saw and what I thought of it. Speaking to the concession person I told her it was good, not worth the price of a full ticket but maybe a matinee price. While sitting on the bus and taking the ride from the Dole Cannery where I usually see my movies to Downtown Honolulu I had a chance to reflect on what I had seen.

Then I got distracted. As the bus was passing by Iolani Palace and the Kamehameha the Great statue there were all sorts of vehicles parked along Mililani Street and around Ali'i 0 Hale indicating that some sort of filming was going on. I got off at the stop and poked for a moment. Turns out the remake of Hawaii Five-O was there doing filming. I took a picture of some trailers and posted up to my Twitter, Flickr and Facebook accounts.

The trailers were for "Danny Williams", "Chin Ho Kelly", "Steve McGarrett" and "Mary McGarrett". I then got back on the bus to complete the ride home. In case you're wondering, if you have one of the new state quarters, the Hawaii quarter has the statue on the back of the quarter and Iolani Palace is the location used for the Five-O office in the original series. On the bus I pulled myself back into thought and as I reviewed the movie in my mind realized this movie was neither romantic or a comedy, it's really a tragedy.

Ferrera plays Lucia who is in love with Marcus (Gross) but neither has told their parents the game plan to get married. The two families get together for dinner where Lucia's Mexican family gets to meet Marcus's African-American father. The two dads, Lucia's dad Miguel (Carlos Mencia) and Marcus' dad Brad (Forest Whitaker) immediately start to clash for various reasons. Even in a posh restaurant the two dads start throwing around stereotypes raising voices and embarrassing everyone. Have we seen this before? Yes we have. Take part of Guess Who and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, try to fix them into the formulaic rom-com but don't develop character depth or put in comedy and go light on the romance and you end up with this flick.

I really like Ferrera and hopefully once Ugly Betty ends, she'll have more time to pick roles better than what the role of Lucia offered her. The character didn't get enough development for us to care about her decision and why she thought standing by Marcus was a good decision.

As I watched Gross, I really didn't see much apart from what he's done as Calvin Payne. He had a lot of help around him. Taye Diggs makes a cameo. Charlie Murphy in his role talks about being a whipped husband. Warren Sapp has a moment of screen time. Ultimately, it was Calvin Payne on the screen and not a fully formed Marcus.

Mencia was not inspired at all. Every time he was on the screen I was hoping he'd soon get off the screen. Enough said about him.

Whitaker's character didn't seem realistic. As a DJ, would he really make that kind of money to support the life style that was shown. Highly doubtful.

The set up and premises were not in any way believable. From the police department to the modern bathroom to how to combine traditions the plot didn't flow. But like most romance stories, Act One thru Three: boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl were followed.

One scene that I found difficult to take in was during the boy loses girl act. In my head, I have a heard time wrapping my brain around a dad trying to sooth his own problems with alcohol and when the son shows up with his problems the dad offers the son alcohol so they both could try to wash away their troubles with 100 proof on the rocks. Just because their personal lives are on the rocks doesn't mean you should use the same metaphor while drinking.

Was it 100% bad. No, but there was way more bad than good. The ending of the movie showing the blending of the traditions between the two cultures seemed forced. The one scene that I thought was really good was in the planning of who sits where at the reception. They had a peg board of sorts that represented the layout of tables. Using pegs to represent people and the "What if?" scenarios did get some of the biggest laughs from me and other people in the theater.

The movie ran 90 minutes and rated PG-13 for some language and some sexual content. From what I understand, Red Box on the mainland rents for a dollar a movie. That price seems about right for this instead of the price of a matinee.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why we love Sandra Bullock

I'm sure that out in the vast expanse of the cold cosmos there is a star. It's a bright shinning star that you look at it in wonder and amazement. It is so beautiful and inspiring you go "oooooh". Right next to it is a black hole. We can't see it directly because no light can escape it. We know it's there because it does have an influence upon the bright shining star next door giving the star extra flare as it deals with the sucking gravitational influence of the hole. Over the weekend we got to see a live example of these two opposing forces here on Earth focused into one body known as Sandra Bullock.

Award seasons are funny. Watching who gets ignored for their work who gets fingers pointed at them so other people will notice them or others who get lifted up on platforms for all to see. Sometimes the finger pointing is good as in the case of The Oscars when the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says these are the best that Hollywood has to offer. On the flip side are the Golden Raspberry Awards more affectionately known as The Razzies which points the finger at someones work and says "Dude (or dudette), that really sucked!"

In the cinematic year that was 2009 the mystical forces came together in the right proportions to allow the Magellanic Cloud to part, streams of flowing protons to filter through, the hand of god to reach through the heavens with his outstretched finger to point at Sandra Bullock and say "This year, you will be the best and the worst that Hollywood has to offer!" Sandra tosses her long brown hair about, shining in the celestial glow as choirs of angels sing "aaaaaahhhhh".

The worst as recognized by the Razzies was Sandra's portrayal of Mary Horowitz, a not all too hip crossword puzzle creator who is smitten and stalks TV news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper) in the movie appropriately named All About Steve. It was painful to watch this intelligent woman mindlessly chase a man across the country and be lead on by a no good news reporter feeding her lines to advance his own cause. While Mary has a heart of gold her self-esteem she doesn't feel is as valuable. This was not a story about self empowerment and I'm sure feminists everywhere were cringing if they watched this movie. For her efforts in this film, the Razzies awarded her two awards: the first being the Worst Screen Couple which she shared with Bradley Cooper and the second being Worst Actress.

At the other end of the spectrum was the portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a no nonsense southern lady who took a homeless black child off the street and provided him a stable home life. Fierce, determined, strict, gutsy, nurturing and loving describe the women Bullock brought to the big screen. To see Bullock stand at 5'7" next to Quinton Aaron who portrayed Michael Oher at 6'8" and close to 400 pounds was like seeing a poodle stand next to an elephant, an interesting combination whose story pulled at the heart strings in The Blind Side. It was a role that Bullock turned down several times. It wasn't until meeting Tuohy did Bullock decide to accept the role. It was almost a lost opportunity. Now, I'm sure she's glad she decided to accept the role!

So for the first time in the history of cinema, one person, one actress was recognized on one weekend for the two sides of the good/bad coin that is Hollywood Cinema. After being nominated for the Razzie, Bullock said she would show up if she won and true to her word she showed up and accepted the award with grace, humility and humor, lots of humor!

When she was called on stage to accept the Oscar for the Best Actress, it was heart warming, heart felt and again very humorous.

(Here's hoping this video doesn't get taken down by YouTube)

I'm sure there will be a very special case in the Bullock household. It will hold the 13.5" 8.5 lb 24K gold plated Oscar Statuette and right next to it will be the empty 8mm film reel with the glued on raspberry that is spray painted gold for a cost of $4.97 (at least according to the founder of the Razzies John Wilson) The bright shining star and the sucking black hole poised next to each other in that case. Sandra gave us her best and worst performances in 2009 and accepted both in a very genuine and sincere way. For this how could you not love this women Sandra Bullock.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Movie Review: Shinjuku Incident

For American audiences, we don't get to see Jackie Chan in the light that this movie casts. We see him in movies like Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour, The Tuxedo or his latest US flick, The Spy Next Door. He plays a likable guy with killer martial arts skills who is able to use whatever is around him clay pots, sofas, scaffolding, clock works to move around and vanquish his opponent. He uses comedy throughout to bring smiles to the audience's faces. Shinjuku Incident is not like that at all. Released in April 2009 in Hong Kong it is just making its way into US theaters. Done in Japanese and Mandarin, we watch the action and are lead via the subtitles.

I had two people in the theater with me who kept talking back and forth trying to figure out the language and that they had to read the subtitles. After the first two minutes if they didn't like reading subtitles they always had the option to leave.

Chan plays Steelhead an illegal Chinese immigrant in Japan. Back in China he used to repair engines. His fiance Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei) moved to Japan to try to find a better life saying that she'll come back but when she doesn't and communication stops, he follows his heart to try to find her. After escaping the authorities on the Japanese beach he meets up with his brother Jie (Daniel Wu) who introduces him to other illegals who are picking up odd jobs and stealing in order to survive.

During an immigration bust Steelhead saves the life of Detective Kitano (Naoto Takenaka) who is greatful and wishes to repay Steelhead. When he discovers his fiance is now the wife of a Yakuza boss Steelhead decides to become a legal citizen of Japan. In the process he gets caught up in Chinese gangs and the Yakuza. To keep his brother out of trouble Steelhead buys Jie a chestnut cart. Jie unfortunately has a run in with another gang and ends up with severe injuries. Steelhead while trying to exact revenge for Jie ends up saving the life of his ex's husband. Eguchi (Masaya Kato) hires Steelhead to kill those people who were trying to kill him.

For the first time we see Jackie Chan, not in defensive mode but playing offense. While trying to play protector he ends up being aggressor. It's not what we American audiences think of when someone drops the name of Jackie Chan. We see a side to him that we haven't been presented. Instead of this coordinated flailing martial arts master that deflects blows, we see a man who gets hurt and shows emotions.

After taking care of Eguchi's request and being rewarded with control of specific districts including Shinkuku, Steelhead tries to lead a normal life going back to repairing engines leaving the control of the Chinese gang to the people who originally helped him. Without his sense of fairness the other immigrants start to fall into illegal activities that Steelhead never would have imagined. One of the corrupt leaders is none other that his brother Jie.

Detective Kitano gets called upon to crackdown on the illegal activities at the same time parts of the Yakuza decide they want to take back control of the areas that were given to the Chinese. The undercurrent of racism rears it head and comes out. Kitano thinks it's Steelhead not realizing Steelhead has stepped back from control but wants to work with him to pay back his personal debt he owes to Steelhead. All hell breaks out as the Yakuza and formerly illegal immigrants fight for control.

Chan plays good guy and he plays bad guy. The good guy isn't like what we see with his movies made for America. There were some typical Chan traits, but not over the top. The bad guy we haven't seen before. This is a drama not a comedy or martial arts flick although there is some martial arts involved. One of the challenges with watching foreign flicks with subtitles is having to focus on the bottom of the screen. Without understanding the languages involved the nuances of the vocal part of the performance is lost.

The movie was an interesting story of immigration challenges set in Japan. It presented something that we normally see with issues between the US and Mexico. Presented with another culture and location but similar reasoning we're given another level of interest to draw us into the story. If this two hours which is rated R due to graphic violence, brief sexuality and drug use is playing in your area, I would recommend checking it out for another side of Jackie Chan's acting abilities.